Earlier this year we saw Japanese fighter Yuko Kuroki (11-4-1, 6) prove she was more than just a pretty face as she over-came Mari Ando to claim the WBC female Minimumweight title. The bout was Kuroki's second world title shot in a little over a year though the improvements in her as a fighter were remarkable. In her first world title bout she looked totally out of her depth as Etsuko Tada dominated her on the score cards. In the second she looked very good in over-coming Ando, herself a 2-time world champion.
In her first defense Kuroki will find herself up against the much more experienced Katia Gutierrez (19-4, 4) of Mexico. herself a former IBF world champion with notable wins over Hollie Dunaway, Ara Arrazola, Olga Julio, Susana Cruz Perez and Gretchen Abaniel, in fact she's the only fighter to have stopped Abaniel.
Kuroki is a tough fighter who, like we mentioned, is improving quickly. When she began her career she lost 2 of her first 3 bouts, both were closes losses but losses all the same, including one to Naoko Shibata. Since then however she has only lost twice, the loss to Tada and a close loss to Saemi Hanagata, who she later drew with in an immediate rematch. The improvements have come fight after fight and at just 23 years old some seem to believe she has the potential to be a cross over star given her good looks and marketability outside of the ring.
With the 25 year old Mexican challenger have a very experienced and world class fighter looking to gate crash Kuroki's rise to stardom. Although she is experienced, and has shared the ring with some big names, including both Jessica Chavez and Irma Sanchez who have inflicted 3 of the 4 losses on Gutierrez's record. Notably however this bout will be her first outside of Mexico where she has fought all 23 previous bouts
For Kuroki this is a bout that she needs to win to authenticate her title reign. A win over Ando won her the title but she'll need this to really make it feel real. As for Gutierrez she'll come into this bout feeling it's a great opportunity to become a 2-time world champion, something she would likely love.
For us the deciding point isn't skills, style or experience of the two. We think in all honesty they are very similar fighters, both lack the power to score stoppages on a regular basis so both throw a lot and both work incredibly hard to win rounds to win fights. When it comes to winning rounds away from home, half way around the world, a fighter needs to win them cleanly. We think that due to how equal the two are, and that Kuroki is improving markedly, the champion will retain her title, though she will have to really work for it in what we suspect will be a very hard fought contest.
(Image courtesy of http://yukofbg.com)
At one point earlier this year Ohashi Gym had 3 world champions. They had Akira Yaegashi, who at the time held the WBC Flyweight title, Naoya Inoue, the WBC Light Flyweight champion, and Ayaka Miyao, the WBA Atomweight champion. On paper they could end the year with out a single world title. We already know Yaegashi has lost his belt to Roman Gonzalez in a thrilling contest earlier this year and we also know that Naoya Inoue is set to vacate his world title. That means the world title hopes of the gym now lie, at least for now, on the tiny shoulders of Miyao.
Miyao (18-5-1, 3) will be defending her title for the 5th time this coming Saturday as she takes on fellow Japanese fighter Satomi Nishimura (7-1, 1), a fighter who will be challenging for a title for the second time in her career having previously fallen short in an OPBF title fight earlier this year. The story of the bout however is that this will be Miyao's first title bout in Nagano, the city in which she was born.
The challenger, as mentioned, has fought in 1 prior title bout. In that bout she fought against the recently usurped Saemi Hanagata for the vacant OPBF female Minimumweight title and was stopped in 5 rounds. That bout however was fought at Minimumweight, 105lbs, whilst this coming bout will be at Atomweight, or 102lbs. It might not seem like a lot but to the fighters at these weights that can be a big difference between winning and losing.
Prior to the loss to Hanagata the challenger had won 6 straight, though against limited foes whilst since the loss she has score a single win, again at a very low level.
Whilst the challenger is lacking wins of any note the champion is a well established top tier fighter at 102lbs. In her brilliant career the 31 year old has beaten the likes of Masae Akitaya, Mari Ando and Gretchen Abaniel whilst coming up short against the likes of Nao Ikeyama, Samson Tor Buamas, Tenkai Tsunami and Naoko Shibata all world champions and very, very good fighters.
For those who haven't seen Miyao she's a whirlwind of energy in the ring throwing relentlessly in a manner similar to stable Yaegashi. Although diminutive in stature she has a huge engine that powers he insane work rate. She may not have the power to go with that work rate but she does grind opponents mentally and physically, whether she stops them or not is beside the point.
We suspect the class and work rate of Miyao will be the telling factor here with the experienced champion having a bit too much of everything for the challenger. That's not to say Nishimura wasn't put up a fight but we don't think she'll put up enough of one to make the bout competitive, especially not with Miyao looking to impress fans in her return to Nagano. The challenger will try but this is a domestic contender fighting a world champion and the levels of the fighters will be apparent in the ring.
(Image courtesy of Ohashi Gym)
Here we preview the key female title bouts involving an Asian fighter.